June 23, 2016 By Sahr Morris Jr.
Sierra Leone Football Association (SLFA) on Wednesday confirmed the withdrawal of the national U-17 team, Sierra Stars, from this year’s Confederation of Africa Football (CAF) Youth U-17 qualifiers.
The country’s withdrawal came just four days before the team face their Squirrel Cadets opponent away at the Stade de l’Amitié de Kouhounou Stadium in Cotonou on Sunday, 26 June for the first leg fixture.
Confirming the news, SLFA media officer Abubakarr Kamara said the decision for the late pull out in the tournament was due to lack of funding.
He said: “We pulled out on Monday due to lack of funds and we have already informed CAF and Benin about that.”
The African football governing has also in a letter sent to the Benin Football Normalisation Committee confirmed Sierra Leone’s withdrawal but did not cite any reason for the country’s decision to quit the tournament.
The CAF correspondence reads: “We regret to inform you hereby removing the Federation team from Sierra Leone from the CAN U-17-Madagascar in 2017. The said matches are canceled and the Benin team qualified for the next round of the competition.”
Sierra Leone became the fifth nation to withdrawn from the competition, after Malawi, DR Congo, Liberia, Mauritius, and Zimbabwe and this decision could see them face a fine and Sierra Stars suspended to participate in the 13th edition of U-17 qualifiers.
This is the third successive time Sierra Leone is pulling out of the youth U-17 qualifiers, the second time in Isha Johansen’s controversial reign as president of the SLFA. The first was in 2013, when the Football Association cited financial constraints and the transitional period as the reasons for their withdrawal. Also, the team pulled out of the 11th edition of the youth tournament in 2015.